A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists.
"One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride...."
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy - including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets - and the truth about her own family - before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
©2013 Yangsze Choo (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I really wish I could have liked this book better than I did. It's kind of a 3.5, but I just can't quite give it a full 4. The premise is a good one, but the execution was somewhat disappointing. In the first half of the book the pacing was somewhat lethargic, as if the author just didn’t know how to get past the set-up and dig into the story. That at least improved significantly in the second half as the promise of a very interesting spirit world journey took over. There was a central mystery for Li Lan to solve in order to solve her own problems, adding some rooting interest to her plight. I like a good ghost story, and I really did enjoy the Chinese mythology and the supernatural creatures of the spirit world. That was the best written part of the book, obviously the story the author wanted to tell.
However, throughout the story, the characters were somewhat flat, behaving more for the convenience of the plot as opposed to having fully developed personalities of their own. Li Lan shifted from naïve to resourceful, from helplessly submissive to fiercely independent at will, depending on what moved the plot forward at the time. Twists were predictable and seen far off by the reader, while the characters, mainly Li Lan, remained oblivious to the obvious. If a reader is interested in the unique cultural setting and mythology and can be forgiving of these shortcomings of character development and plot movement, there is essentially a good story here.
I would definitely recommend the audio edition over the print. I didn't have to struggle with pronunciations and could just relax and listen.
Er Lang - who turned out to be a surprise (at least to me). I really enjoyed his personality.
Yangsze Choo was an excellent narrator. I loved how she performed each character and made them different.
Li Lan, of course, being the main character!
The author does a tremendous job of drawing the reader/listener in to her world. I loved the way the author described each scene in detail, It made me want to learn more about why the author wrote it and if any of the portions of the book were based on actual customs or folk tales.
Not bad. It wasn't exactly what I expected, however. Fantasy novel or Ghost story? It was a bit weird, but the Chinese lore was fascinating in that way. Li Lan made so many references to the afterlife having distinct parallels to the life of the living. I thought this was going somewhere and she would learn some moral or truth (whatever), but nothing ever came of this. I was left to come to my own conclusions there, which is fine except that I felt that she was building to something that never came. Many parts were slow for me, hence the 3 stars, but it wasn't bad.
Culture, naiveté, intrigue
I love the Chinese culture represented. Yangsze Choo brought to life the "Ghost Bride," a tradition I was never aware of as well as the mythology of life after death and how it "works."
Yangsze has a beautiful voice, it was stunning to hear the author read her own work to the listener. I think because she was so intimate with the characters as she was writing them, she could give a little extra depth and emotion to them. We can hear what she envisioned.
Probably have to go with Er Lang, I just loved him. He was a typical male lead and the chemistry between Li Lang and him was a little obvious but fun. It would be compelling to see the sprit world through his eyes.
The story was defiantly a slow starter probably because the author is trying to lay down the blueprints for traditions and mythology for those of us not inept on the culture. Occasionally, the author does seem to spend a lot of time on details that just seem to drag the story on. Li Lan (our heroine) can at times be naïve and there where a few times I just wanted to smack her upside the head for her decisions, but then I would remind myself she has a different upbringing than myself. If you can keep an open mid, this story does not disappoint of imagination and intrigue. There was romance, but it was not overly saturated. I do feel like the ending was a little abrupt, but it makes sense. All in all, this really was a beautiful story. I look forward to future books Yangsze Choo may release.
One of the best audio books I've listened to all year, the Ghost Bride kept me awake all night. I also let my young teen listen when I was done. I highly recommend this audiobook!
C O Ehren
This is a lovely book full of fun characters, and a fantastic journey drawn from folklore. Chinese folklore, very different from western folklore. I thoroughly enjoyed these unfamiliar vistas drawn from the Chinese traditions of the supernatural and the afterlife. The author did a great job of introducing the reader to the rules and the players.
This one ranks second. I enjoyed the book, but it seemed to drag at times.
There were many moments that were memorable. However the one where she is floating in the mansion of her intended dead husband sticks out.
All of the characters were well fitted.
The name fits it.
the narrator was great
to lear about a whole different culture and what people have to do to find love
A whole different experience. I hate reading books but this is great to listen to.
It is the time of year when I find myself in the mood for a good ghost story, but unfortunately, this isn't one of them. The premise is intriguing, involving dead and half-dead characters who exist on their own plane and sometimes interact with the living, most often in dreams. Plenty of potential here for eerie suspense and exploration of dimensions of human existence beyond the worldly. Sadly, this potential is wasted and what we have instead is combination of vapid romance novel and tedious travelogue of the traditional Chinese afterlife. There are aspects of Chinese mythology and culture which are of interest but they can't compensate for the predictable plot, 2-dimensional characters and cloying narrative style. Guess I'll still be searching for a good ghost story.
As the author/narrator states the notion of the ghost bride is nothing new in Eastern traditions but for the rest of us it is a unique concept. Adding to this unique ghost bride story is a blossoming romance between the would be bride and someone whom one wouldn't think of. Yangsze Choo not only writes a wonderful fantasy romance she truly brings it to life with her wonderful narrations. I hope she writes & narrates a lot more in the near future.
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